"Battle of Trenton" Bringing Diverse Jersey
Racing Talent Together for Last Race of 2014
This weekend's "Battle of Trenton" is much more than just the final race of 2014 for New Jersey competitors and fans alike. It is an all-star race. A race that pits those loyal to dirt against those who prefer asphalt. A chance to prove you are among the best in a state rich in racing history.
Win an indoor race put together by Len Sammons Racing Productions, like the "Battle of Trenton", and you will be talked about like those who have won races like the Race of Champions in the 1980's where competitors from throughout the Northeast came together in numbers close to 100 entrants from multiple states, and even countries.
In actuality winning a race like the "Battle of Trenton" may actually be more impressive. That's because only in the indoor races will you find such a huge amount of racing talent from so many different backgrounds in one place.
Think about a race which has a former NASCAR competitor, a Dirt Modified Series winner, a Super Modified winner, a Friends of Mike race winner, and a Turkey Derby winner all together. Now realize that could be just a heat race in this weekend's event at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.
Best of all for New Jersey race fans is that most of that talent is homegrown. Fans will not only get to see their favorite drivers one last time in 2014, but they will get to see them competing against the best-of-the-best.
The headlining division at this weekend's "Battle of Trenton" will be the TQ Midgets. A division where not only are many of the favorites from New Jersey, but from several different forms of racing as well.
Leading this group is three time Atlantic City Boardwalk Indoor Race winner Anthony Sesely. Although Sesely has recently chosen to compete mostly on dirt he is quite the accomplished asphalt competitor. The former two-time Wall Modified champion was once a competitor on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and may return to the Tour for a few races in 2015.
Sesely's biggest competition in Trenton may just be one of his closest friends. Jimmy Blewett, like Sesely, was quite an accomplished asphalt racer before he decided to take his talents to dirt. Blewett, however, put forth a much bigger effort, and has turned that into wins. In fact, he holds bragging rights over Sesely in that he was able to win at all three NJ ovals, Bridgeport, New Egypt, and Wall Stadium in the same season in 2013. The one place he has yet to beat his friend is indoor. He hopes to change that this weekend.
But what makes this weekend truly special is the diverse background of some of the other challengers who hail from New Jersey. Drivers like Super Modified competitor Joey Payne, or dirt racer Neal Williams. Andrew Krause, who runs more divisions every year than any other NJ driver, who will be making his first TQ Midget start, just like former Flemington Speedway Street Stock champion, and NWMT competitor Steve Whitt, who has raced sparingly in recent years.
Joining the TQ's on the Friday night schedule is the Champ Karts. Here the diversity among the Garden State entrants seems to be more experience based than series based. Justin Gulley, a Wall Modified driver, returns to defend his title against the likes of Jonathan Laureigh, a Wall Sportsman competitor, and Paul Hartwig Jr., who has competed on both asphalt and dirt in 2014.
However, a group of youngsters, all with connections to well-known NJ racing families, will be looking to make their own marks in the Champ Kart race. This group includes Blake Barney, Brianna Page, and Gabbie Olender.
Saturday night the Slingshots join the TQ's in competition. Here too, the diversity of drivers in the field is amazing. Wall Limited Late Model, and Modified racer Nick Shaw leads the NJ competitors, however, there will be some well-known names in this race as well. Matt Carman, Kalli and Mark Hartman Jr., Matt and Ed Stangle all carry names most associated with dirt racing, and will bring back fond memories for many in the crowd.
And while New Jersey will be well represented in Trenton there will actually be competitors from two countries, and ten states, looking to take the trophies home with them. This group includes NASCAR veteran Ted Christopher, and Rob Summers of Connecticut, Erik Rudolph and Andy Jankowiak of New York, and Mike Lichty of Canada.
The weekend gets underway on Friday night at 7:30pm. Six heat races will be run to set up two twenty car 20-lap features.
Saturday, which starts at 7pm, will feature a more traditional format for the TQ's. Time trials, followed by heat races, and a B-Main to determine the field for the 40-lap main event.
Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster, and for the first time a two-day discounted combo ticket is available. As an added bonus, everyone who purchases a combo ticket will receive access to a Fan Fest held before the races at 5pm. Here they will be able to walk the racing surface, meet the drivers, and check out the racing machines up close.
Battle of Trenton Schedule for Friday & Saturday
Spectator Gates Open 6pm
Racing Starts 7pm
Two Champ Kart Heat Races
Six TQ Midget Heat Races
Champ Kart B-Main
First TQ Midget 20-lap Feature
Champ Kart 20-lap Feature
Second TQ Midget 20-lap Feature
TQ Midget Time Trials in Afternoon
Spectator Gates Open 5pm
Fan Fest 5pm
Racing Starts 7pm
Six TQ Midget Heat Races
Two Slingshot Heats
Three TQ B-Mains
Oliver Communications TQ Midget Match Races
Lentini Auto Salvage 20-lap Slingshot Feature
Battle of Trenton 40-lap TQ Midget Feature
Could New Jersey Have a Bigger Presence on the
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2015?
New Jersey race fans love their asphalt modified racing. Nowhere was this more obvious than the recently completed Turkey Derby held at the last remaining paved oval in the Garden State, Wall Stadium Speedway. Despite extremely cold weather the grandstands were packed on Saturday to witness both a Tour-Type 150-lap race, and a 100-lap event for the SK/Wall Mods.
Unfortunately for NJ race fans, their home state has barely been represented in recent years on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Sure, 1990 NWMT Champion Jamie Tomaino of Howell still competes on the "Tour", but with a limited budget, and small team, "The Jet" is rarely a threat for a win against the much better funded teams mostly based in New York and Connecticut.
A major factor in the lack of NJ competitors is that most of the series races are held in Connecticut. The combination of travel time, hotels, and racing expenses, makes it virtually impossible for a team from the Garden State to compete at the highest level without spending a small fortune to do so.
However, some recent developments centering around the Turkey Derby, may give NJ race fans not only a bigger presence to cheer for on the "Tour", but a group of drivers who may actually be capable of challenging for a win.
Perhaps the most exciting possibility for the NWMT in 2015 is the return of past winner Jimmy Blewett. The driver known as "Showtime" left both the "Tour" and most of his asphalt racing behind a few years ago to try his hand at dirt racing.
Then came word that Blewett was possibly being considered for the Partridge Racing ride on the NWMT that was ultimately secured by 2013 champion Ryan Preece. While he was quick to dispel the rumors that he was ever actually being considered he wasn't so definite when asked about plans for a NWMT car on a flatbed truck in his pit area during Turkey Derby.
"Right now I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it," said Blewett. "We may build it as a Wall car to run on our off nights from dirt, but we can also always use Bobby's car for that as well," he said referring to the red number 18 he used to win the SK/Wall Mod race at the Turkey Derby.
"I may just keep it the way it is," seeming to indicate a possible desire to take his talents back to the NWMT, at least on a part-time basis.
Another driver, who much like Blewett, was a very successful asphalt pilot, including a stint on the "Tour" before leaving the asphalt to try his hand at dirt also indicated the possibility of his return to not only pavement, but the NWMT as well.
Anthony Sesely the two-time Wall Modified division champion was behind the wheel of a purple and pink number 1 for the Tour-Type race at the Turkey Derby. A conversation with his father, early in the weekend, indicated this could me more than just a one race deal for the talented Sesely. He called it a sort of tryout on both ends, something Anthony confirmed.
"We are going to see how the weekend goes, and go from there. But, my dad would love to return to the Tour," said the younger Sesely.
All Sesely did in the Tour-Type race was finish fourth behind race winner Eric Murillo, Les Hinckley, Blewett, and ahead of 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Doug Coby. Not a bad result for their first time together, and definitely something they could build on towards NWMT appearances in 2015.
The Jersey possibilities for the NWMT in 2015 don't end with Blewett, and Sesely, however. Eric Mauriello would very much like to try his talents against the drivers on the" Tour." He already drives for a team, Barney Racing, which is very familiar with victory lane on the NWMT. Could his win against some of the best talent NASCAR's only open-wheel division has to offer at the Turkey Derby be enough to convince the Barneys to return their famous red and white 14 to the "Tour" in 2015 on at least a partial basis?
Of course if you're going to bring one car to a "Tour" race why not bring two? If Barney Racing were to decide to try Mauriello out on the NWMT would they also consider bringing his teammate Shawna Ingraham along? Shawna has not been shy about her desire to take her racing career to it's highest possible level. The next step, beyond Wall, could start as part of a two-car team at possibly Thompson or Stafford where the Barneys could evaluate just how talented these two young drivers could be.
Another possibility for NJ to have another of it's talented youngsters in a NWMT race for 2015 is Andrew Krause of Holmdel. He has run the Tour-Type race at Turkey Derby the last two years behind the wheel of the Ralph Solhem number 0. While he hasn't gotten the finishes he had hoped for he has shown he is more than capable behind the wheel of a modified.
His father, Cliff, the promoter of Wall Stadium Speedway, was also a one-time supporter of Tomaino on the NWMT so he is no stranger to just how expensive it can be to run just one race. He would also do just about anything to give Andrew the opportunities he desires, so in this case the decision may be Andrew's.
While at the writing of this nothing has been confirmed it should come as somewhat of a relief to NJ race fans that at least there is the possibility of seeing some of it's best driving talent competing on the NWMT in 2015. Even if they do have to travel out of the state to see it.